Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
Congress soon took advantage of its new power to limit Chinese immigration. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years. The act did not apply to Chinese laborers who resided in the United States at the time of enactment or arrived within 90 days after passage of the law, nor did it apply to Chinese who were not laborers. Sections 3 and 6 of the act established a system of identification for Chinese exempt from the act, specifying that Chinese laborers leaving the United States obtain what came to be known as a “return certificate” from the collector of the port. Other Chinese had to secure a certificate from the Chinese government explaining why they were exempt from the law. Chinese immigration fell sharply, but exclusionists remained frustrated by the success some Chinese had in using the exemptions in the law to gain entry into the United States and sought further legislation to tighten restriction.
[Document Source: U.S. Statutes at Large 22 (1882): 58.]
An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese.
Whereas, in the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof: Therefore,
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the expiration of ninety days after the passage of this act, and until the expiration of ten years next after the passage of this act, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States be, and the same is hereby, suspended; . . .
SEC. 3. That the two foregoing sections shall not apply to Chinese laborers who were in the United States on the seventeenth day of November, eighteen hundred and eighty, or who shall have come into the same before the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act. . . .
SEC. 4. That for the purpose of properly identifying Chinese laborers who were in the United States on the seventeenth day of November, eighteen hundred and eighty, or who shall have come into the same before the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act, and in order to furnish them with the proper evidence of their right to go from and come to the United States of their free will and accord, as provided by the treaty between the United States and China . . . the collector of customs of the district from which any such Chinese laborer shall depart from the United States shall, in person or by deputy, go on board each vessel having on board any such Chinese laborer and cleared or about to sail from his district for a foreign port, and on such vessel make a list of all such Chinese laborers, which shall be entered in registry-books to be kept for that purpose, in which shall be stated the name, age, occupation, last place of residence, physical marks or peculiarities, and all facts necessary for the identification of each of such Chinese laborers, which books shall be safely kept in the custom-house; and every such Chinese laborer so departing from the United States shall be entitled to, and shall receive, . . . a certificate, signed by the collector or his deputy . . . in such form as the Secretary of the Treasury shall prescribe. . . . The certificate herein provided for shall entitle the Chinese laborer to whom the same is issued to return to and re-enter the United States upon producing and delivering the same to the collector of customs. . . .
SEC. 6. . . . Every Chinese person other than a laborer who may be entitled by said treaty and this act to come within the United States, and who shall be about to come to the United States, shall be identified as so entitled by the Chinese Government in each case, such identity to be evidenced by a certificate issued under the authority of said government, which certificate shall be in the English language or. . . accompanied by a translation into English, stating such right to come, and which certificate shall state the name, title, or official rank, if any, the age, height, and all physical peculiarities, former and present occupation or profession, and place of residence in China. . . . Such certificate shall be prima-facie evidence of the fact set forth therein, and shall be produced to the collector of customs, or his deputy, of the port in the district in the United States at which the person named therein shall arrive.